Strange and Beautiful People

 

The other day while my husband drove through town, I sat in the passenger seat and just looked out the window. I really looked though, like at people. It’s easy for me to space out and not see people, they just blend into the background noise of my day. As Josh drove through town I saw a man helping another man jump start  his car, a man comforting a crying woman, friends greeting each other with a handshake, a woman speaking to a homeless man with a cardboard sign. I saw people making connections. Touching and smiling and speaking.

I decided to keep doing it. People watching that is. The last time I went for a run through my neighborhood I went past a man on horseback who nodded his cowboy hat to me. A little, pigtail haired girl ran out of her house, screen door slamming behind her, with a squirt gun in hand to spray and chase a squirrel up a tree. An older woman on a bike, wearing a football helmet and basketball shorts over her sweat pants, while riding without using the handlebars and swinging her arms as though she were sprinting. Several people were talking and laughing together while working in a community garden.

Other interesting sightings around town include: a man on a bike wearing only a speedo, a gentleman in a coffee shop with a long braided beard who’s intently reading Byron’s poem’s and occasionally lets out a loud sigh or “Wow, beautiful.”  A woman belly dancing on the sidewalk while she waits for traffic at the crosswalk and a very large man wearing a tutu and riding a tricycle. The lovely woman at the farmer’s market with the most amazingly, long dreadlocks I’ve ever seen. The waiter at our favorite restaurant who speaks with a Australian accent one minute, German the next and is fully Irish by the time we leave.

All this people watching has made me realize that people are strange and beautiful at the same time.

People make life interesting and I enjoy the company of others, but often I tend to be solitary and prefer silence over constant chatter. I have two girls who love to talk. All the time. Sometimes, when they’re talking, I just look at them and wonder if they ever get tired of moving their lips. They don’t.

Being a mom has forced me into situations where I have to meet new people. My girls are so different from me, they’re social and thrive in big groups of people. They have all these friends who have parents that I’m supposed to meet and hang out with during play dates. It’s not that I’m socially inept (not completely anyway), it’s just that I don’t do fake and I’m not good at small talk. Most people are fine with that, but others get nervous when the conversation starts to ebb. Truly though, most people I meet are kind and funny.

Still, there are times when it’s so hard for me to like people. Can I just be brutally honest for a minute? Usually the people I struggle the most to connect with, are other Christians.

I’m sorry if that’s offensive, I’m just trying to write how I feel. I’m not talking about all Christians, I’m talking about a few. You know who I mean, they keep everything surface level and think they can wipe away a painful situation with a verse or a phrase, “If it’s not alright, then it’s not the end!” They’re convinced that their way of loving and worshiping God is the best and only way. I visited a church once where someone said from the stage that “if you’re not jumping and dancing in your worship, you might as well go home because God doesn’t want your half-hearted worship”.  Really?  Someone who worships quietly could very well be worshiping just as much as the person dancing and doing back flips for God.

I try not to be judgmental and mostly I’m fine with weird people, ( you pretty much have to be okay with weird in order to live in Oregon ) but some days I’d rather not be around people. Maybe I’m easily discouraged, but when people who claim to love God act as though they don’t love anyone except others just like them, it makes me want to move to a cabin in the woods. I’d isolate myself and pretend nothing is wrong with the world.

I recently read the book Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas, about discovering the way you best relate to God, your “spiritual temperament”.  In the book he describes nine different temperaments, some people are Caretakers, Contemplatives, Ascetics, Activists….but I’m almost entirely a Naturalist, meaning I experience God the most while alone in the woods or at a river or the ocean. Learning this about myself is good and gives me permission to take a break once and a while and be alone in creation, but it also becomes a temptation to want to be alone a lot. In some ways Jesus was a Naturalist, he would often go to a garden to pray and once spent forty days alone in the wilderness praying and fasting, but he also spent most of his life with people, caring for, teaching and loving people.

In order to love people you have to spend time with them. In some ways I’m good at caring for people, I can get behind a cause, be an activist and bring attention to a problem and help be part of the solution. I care about injustice, what’s hard is caring about the ones who are the problem. When people choose not to care about others or are downright mean, all I want is to move to that cabin and hide. Here’s an excerpt from my journal entry the other day:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 

Ephesians 5:1-2

I’m learning more and more that in order to reflect Christ, I must love people. I’m not always good at that. I can love the down and out, the oppressed, but what about the oppressor? What about the people I find myself at odds with? Jesus loves all people. He died for us all. His salvation is available to all.

Jesus loves everyone. That means I should love everyone.

Jesus loves rude Christians.

He loves the guy who ran a red light and flipped me off when I honked.

He loves politicians.  

 He even loves me.

  Jesus loved the man on the cross next to him who had presumably committed a violent crime. He promised him salvation. 

 Unfortunately, I can fall into my own category of “rude Christian”.  It’s a constant internal struggle to be Christ-like towards people who claim to love God, but are apathetic to the plight of others. And yet, I can be just as oblivious. I’m ashamed to admit all the times I ignored an opportunity to help someone out because I was in a hurry.

Here’s a thought: let’s love each other. Let’s reach out and be open minded about each other’s point of view and realize we all come from different backgrounds and that in the end I don’t think it’s going to matter how we look or dress or how we worship. In the end all that matters is if we loved. If we claim to love God then lets agree to love people. All people. I think we’ll be surprised at how beautiful people truly are.

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Originally written on 7/25/2012

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